Nowadays, more than ever before, intellectual property (“IP”) rights are much more essential for the survival of a business than entrepreneurs may think. Due to the cut-throat competition amongst the businesses and the unprecedented use of the Internet and e-commerce, a company can very easily have its ideas, products or services stolen.
The best way to protect a company’s ideas, products and services is through IP mechanisms. IP offers not just protection; it also allows companies to obtain business assets which may be extremely valuable to their business and its viability as an idea may represent one of the most important business assets of a company. For instance, Amazon’s trade mark, which is ranked first among the ranking of the most valuable brands in the world in 2018 which was published by the Brand Finance, a brand consultancy firm, is now valued at $150.8 billion!
From a more practical perspective, a business can benefit from registering its IP either by making money from selling a registered IP or from earning loyalties by licensing it, or -in case the business is not interested to sell or licensing it – by obtaining the exclusive right to use, produce or sell its IP and by this way preventing its exploitation by others and protecting it against infringement.
Every company, as a first step, must adopt an overall strategy in regard to its IP matters. In Cyprus, the following types of IP rights are provided and can be used depending on the needs of each business:
When carrying out its activities, a company may come up with an invention. In that case, the company can apply to register its invention as a patent so as to exclude others for using and/or taking advantage of it.
A patent is a legal instrument for the protection of inventions which can be provided nationally, on a European level or on international level. An invention can be registered as a patent in Cyprus if the following three conditions are met: the invention is novel (new), it involves an inventive step and it is industrially applicable. Upon its registration, a patent is valid for a period of twenty years from the filing date.
Although an invention may occur in any field, the patent law restricts the areas in which patents can be granted. Discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods, aesthetic creations, schemes, rules and methods of performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, computer programs, presentation of information and animal varieties are excluded from patentability. Moreover, inventions whose exploitation is considered as contrary to public order or morality cannot be registered. It is noted that the protection of utility models in not possible in Cyprus.
SPCs can be issued for inventions registered as patents and having marketing authorization as pharmaceutical products to extend the term of patent protection for an invention related to pharmaceutical products by up to five years in qualifying circumstances. A SPC confers the same rights as the basic patent.
Trade marks can be one of the most important marketing tools of a business. Trade mark is usually a word or symbol and it influences the image the company is trying to build. If a company does not register its trade mark, it is much more difficult to stop others from using it and it even may be prohibited from using it itself in case someone else does register it.
Protection of a trade mark may be obtained by the registration of a national trade mark or a Community trade mark extending at once to all countries of the European Union or even an international trade mark by filing one application and select the states globally to which to the applicant wishes to seek protection.
A trademark is a sign which is able to be represented graphically and to distinguish goods and/or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings. Except from the requirement to have distinctive character, in order to have a trade mark registered, it must not be identical and/or similar to any other already registered trade mark and it must not confuse the public.
Words (including personal names), logos, symbols, letters, numerals, designs, images, shape of goods or their packaging, non-conventional marks (namely colours, sounds and smells) or any combination thereof can be registered as trade marks.
A trade name (or business name or trading name) is any name other of the company’s name which is used by the company in the course of trade. Trade names can be registered in Cyprus under the provisions of the Partnerships and Business Names Law, Cap 116. It is advisable to a company to register its trade names as if it does not register them, it may be prohibited from using them in case someone else does so.
A copyright is the statutory right to stop others from copying or exploiting in any other way original work without permission from the owner of such right. Scientific works, literary works, musical works, artistic works, cinematography, databases, sound recordings, radio and television broadcasts and publishing of previously unpublished works can be protected by copyrights. Copyrights cannot be registered under the Cyprus law but they exist automatically from the time of the creation of the works. Most of the works are protected for a period of seventy years from the date of their creation.
Patterns for the manufacture of industrial products, shapes of articles applied to other articles and in general work of craftmanship that is appealing to the eye in terms of aesthetics and can be used or sold in industry can be registered as industrial designs. An industrial design can be registered in Cyprus if it is novel and has individual character. Protection of a design may be obtained by the registration of a national industrial design or a Community design extending at once to all countries of the European Union.